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Something new under the sun

I have just seen a Kookaburra hanging upside down by its feet from a dead branch at the top of the gum-tree – flapping its wings and telling the world about the position it was in.

No, I did not nail it up in that position for its annoying monkey-like laugh.

It did it itself, and then with a final ‘ka ka kaaaak!’, dropped off and flew away.

Now to Kookaburras that trick was probably as old as Methuselah, and to old-hand Australians, quite normal. Perhaps it was showing off to other Kookaburras, or training for the next Olympics, or frightening off Wolpetiggers, I know not, and it was only saying in Kookaburra.

But to me, it was brand new, and fascinating.

There are millions of Kookaburras, millions of Australians. Maybe to them it’s an ‘Oh no, not again’ bowl of petunias moment. But to anyone else in the world it was unusual and worth seeing, probably a fair number of times until it becomes old hat.

I’ve got my young French cousin here, and things we find terribly mundane – digging up potatoes, catching fish… are still exciting novelties for him. He can’t wait to do what I consider bordering on chores. Food which is so ordinary we barely think of it, for him is a gastronomic experience of unparalleled intensity.

I found myself wondering if this was not true of books too – and deciding it was.

New and exciting is a question of perspective. And that of course is why even an old story is new and exciting if you haven’t heard it, or even if it takes a story have heard – and twists it so you see it all from a different angle (Loki in PYRAMID SCHEME I hope is an example of that. Actually, looking at things from different angles is sort of what I do. It is the source of many of my stories.)

There are, according to various ‘experts’ (I saw an ‘expert’ offering to teach short-story writing a few days ago… and thought there is living proof of if you are too useless to do, you teach, and make generations of uselessness follow. It’s one reason I am wary of those who teach writing. It’s like teaching you to make millions, if you could, why are you teaching me, and why do you want money from me to do it?) only few basic stories or plots. Now of course I disagree with this, but there is a small measure of truth. But the perspective and giving say a Russian Folk-tale to a Western audience can make it seem wonderfully exciting and new. (most of ‘exciting, new, ground-breaking, fresh etc’ I see publishers and their sycophants claiming now-a-days is as novel, exciting and unique as B.O. and plainly regurgitated group-think pap to me. Maybe I’m just jaded.)

So what have you read lately that was really that – and why, and how?

12 Comments
  1. bearcat #

    Alma Boykin’s Cat and Dragon series is that. I actually think I’ll like the Colpatshki (spelling? you could use easier to spell and pronounce names once in a while) series better when it is done, but it isn’t quite as novel and unique so far as her cat and dragon books.

    January 20, 2014
    • TXRed #

      Spelling’s right – it’s the spoken version of Col. Plat. IX, the official planet name, run through Central European languages (where eight consonants and two vowels look normal) Sorry about the complicated names – I do try to limit the Azdhagi to kinda short, sensible tags.

      January 20, 2014
      • It was one of pieces of advice Jim Baen gave me – keep names simple and don’t use huge chunks of dialect.

        January 20, 2014
  2. I’ve been reading a lot of Russian fairy tales recently, researching elements for my novel. They aren’t new to me, but I grew up with a grandmother who was very proud of her Russian heritage.

    January 20, 2014
    • The problem I see here is that they are suddenly becoming fashionable. That may not be a bad thing, but it does mean a tide of the same sources.

      January 20, 2014
      • Yes, most likely, and I’d noticed it too, which is why it’s only an element in a longer work, rather than a backbone. Sadly, as I love them, I am delving into other legends rather than focussing on the Russian tales. F’r instance, stories from the Inuit and Tlingit peoples.

        January 20, 2014
        • TXRed #

          *evil grin* Weeelll, you could always do a cross over based in the Dine Bahisti, the Navajo creation stories. ‘Course, it will be NC-17 for graphic sexual content.

          January 20, 2014
  3. TXRed #

    I’ve seen more new elements and twists than totally new worlds/plots. New uses for mythology, twists on technology, magic systems based on different power sources (more energy physics and less “it just is”) seem to be filling the shelves, along with blends like the magical steampunk worlds. Maybe there’s something truly “OMG wow, where’d that come from” in the hard sci-fi realm (Victor Vinge et al), but I don’t follow that branch too closely at the moment.

    January 20, 2014
    • Well, new twists are obviously easier – but still pleasing IMO (I hope so, I do this a lot).

      January 20, 2014
  4. Laura M #

    I’m finding Celia Hayes’ To Truckee’s Trail very new for me. I’m pretty keen on the human settlement of space, so should probably have done more reading of Westerns (last I read was the Little House books when I was 9). I picked up this book to try and see the mindset that would actually go to terra incognita. The narrative is interspersed with what I understand to be real letters from that particular wagon train. Her depiction of the ordinary and the brave, intermingled, is marvelous and very different. Our time is so very far from the time when Americans moved West, that I feel I have no understanding of it at all. So, this is new and good, both.

    January 20, 2014
    • A great example of ‘new to you’. I have been reading a series of Australian bush stories and finding it surprising how rough and how recently rough life was (railway fettlers were still living in tents with their families in the 1970’s)

      January 20, 2014
  5. To my dear cousin (you will forgive my poor English in a place full of writers).
    Now why was the gastronomic experience of such unparalleled intensity for me? You will have noticed the descriptions of greatness I gave to the food always had something to do with what we had done during the day. Everything always depends on context, experience. As one of my girlfriends use to say: “A woman is only as beautiful as the amount she is loved” (you’ll rewrite that with better English, it really sounded better in French).
    What made everything incredible is not so much how new it was but how it was brought up and presented. I deeply respect your way of life because it is not mine and I don’t think I would be able to live it (without you by my side to help me I mean). If you had offered me to dig potatoes for the fun of it and not because it is a way of life, it would have been boring.
    It is sometimes important to move towards objectives without ever reaching them because that’s what gives us hope, prevents us from getting bored and makes us happy.

    Anyway it was a great stay and experience. Lots of love from Bali.

    January 30, 2014

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